The power of brand loyalty

Brands and their influence on consumers

Mina is a typical young woman who has a passion for the latest fashion trends. She bought a dress recently because it was ‘trendy’ and she considered it ‘a must-have’. Emily is Mina’s friend who loves to follow the latest trends while being ethically conscious. Emily wants to influence Mina’s shopping habits so Mina buys more ethical fashion. She introduced Mina to Channel ABC which airs documentaries that unveil the truth behind manufacturing, production, and distribution of textiles and clothing.

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Why are customers loyal to brands?

Brand loyalty is the result of customer behavior shaped by his or her preferences. Loyal customers will purchase items from their favourite brand or shop regardless of the price tag. There are many reasons why a customer is loyal to a brand, which range from comfort, proximity, or being drawn in by the brand’s image. Studies such as Nielsen’s have demonstrated that brand loyalty is very hard to gain and retain. However, once a customer has made an emotional connection with a brand, it is hard to convince customers to switch to new brands that enter the market.

Mina watched a documentary and was shocked at the harsh practices taking place in the supply chain of clothing production facilities. Mina started to investigate this issue online to ensure its legitimacy. As she continued her research she discovered what happens behind the scenes.

Does it matter to customers if production practices are ethical or not?

There will always be a customer segment that buys ethically produced products religiously. In an article published in Co.Exist, Schwartz states that customers are increasingly aware of ethical clothing and do appreciate that some companies champion environmental and social causes. She found that 30% of participants in her survey would increase their purchases from socially-responsible companies. Consumers ‘care more than ever’ and this consumer demand should help increase ethical production. An article by Elizabeth Cline published by The New Yorker affirms that if customers know where and how their clothes are produced, they are willing to pay more. Yet, there is a huge gap between fast fashion customers and ethical customers. Only a small percentage would actually stick to their word and pay the premium amount. Customers tend to avoid or ignore the fact that the clothing industry may have suspect production methods and distinct doubts within their supply chain. It seems that customers do not want to know about the mistreatment of labour and simply enjoy their latest fashion items that will soon be replaced by the next trend.  At the end of the day, if a person is loyal to certain brands, regardless of its reputation, they will continue to purchase their products.

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Workers sew plaid shirts on the production line of the Fashion Enterprise garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Monday, April 29, 2013. Jeff Holt/Bloomberg

After her research, Mina felt guilty. She can no longer pretend that she doesn’t know about the mistreatment of labour, modern slavery, child labour, etc. Mina decided to buy a couple of ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethically produced’ clothing items that helps to support environmental and social causes. However, the guilt only lasts so long, and the next new fast fashion line is a good way to assuage her guilty conscience. She thinks that if she starts wearing ethically produced clothes, it would not affect the industry enough to change what is happening. After all she is only one person.

Are people overlooking the downside of fast fashion?

It is a sad fact that fashion has a big impact on our lives and how we are perceived. The lure of fast fashion is much stronger than the need to act ethically. So people do overlook the downside of fast fashion; not because people have decided that fashion is more important, but because people don’t want to think about it. Customers value trends, therefore their brand loyalty is everlasting because according to them, it’s what makes them happy. In the documentary True Cost we can see that the garment industry’s profits rise despite people knowing the consequences of fast fashion. Fast fashion is easily available and customers can choose not to think about how their clothes are produced. It is easier to ignore the predicament of labourers half way across the world than to try to help, even if helping means simply buying from ethical producers.

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Customers are definitely not ready to switch from a fast to slow fashion on a wholesale basis, and certainly not for ethical reasons. Most people enjoy the so-called benefits of fast fashion. Unfortunately, retailers will only take note if customers identify and act upon ethical issues as an important factor in their purchasing decisions.

We value clothes that are produced ethically and we hope people increasingly recognize that fashion can be sustainable. We will become a brand that is dedicated to our staff as well as to our customers. To do this, we believe the way forward is to be on the forefront of fashion and not to be seen simply as an ethical clothing brand. That way, customers don’t have to worry about staff conditions; they just need to buy the clothing they like. We can handle the ethical bit in the background.

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About the Author

Valentina is passionate in expressing her voice through her writing, which she hopes will have a social impact. She grew up as a third culture kid that always fought for what is right and achieved a BA Hons. in International Business in order to understand the business world more clearly and leave a possible mark on society. Currently she is working for an ethical start-up company called Chanzez. Chanzez has been set up to provide people with chances whether they are people who design clothes, people who work to make clothes or people who want to be able to buy ethically produced clothes.

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